Anatomy of a Tiger Tamer

By Rex HoggardSeptember 2, 2009, 9:32 pm

Forget the Ides of March, August was the cruelest of months, at least for Tiger Woods. Over a single fortnight the unthinkable happened ... twice.

One long-time Tour putting coach pointed out that Woods “putts by memory,” and the only thing he wants to remember about Liberty National is the exit signs. His silence regarding the first-year venue spoke volumes and despite the ever-present chirping of his critics, Woods’ ballstriking at The Barclays and PGA Championship makes him a perennial favorite as the playoffs turn for home.

There’s nothing wrong with Woods that familiar greens at TPC of Boston, Cog Hill and East Lake can’t fix. There is, however, no escaping the accomplishments of Y.E. Yang and Heath Slocum, the two soft-spoken Davidss who took down the game’s Goliath.

Y.E. Yang and Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods shakes hands with PGA champion Y.E. Yang

On the cover, these two tomes are yin and, well yang, fiction and non-fiction, DSL and cable, fried catfish and kimchi.

One is a late bloomer from Jeju-do Island, the other came into full bloom last week in the shadow of the world’s busiest island – Manhattan; one is a southerner by the grace of God, the other a South Korean by United Nations mandate; one did a tour of duty in the DMZ, the other won his Tour card via a battlefield promotion.

Yet despite their vastly divergent paths, both have arrived at the same lofty crossroads within the last three weeks having won a Sunday staring contest against a man who has made a career out of not blinking.

Yang’s triumph, the more improbable of the two, given Woods’ two-stroke advantage going into the final round and his 14-for-14 record as a major closer, was largely written off as a putting anomaly, a byproduct of Woods’ 33 Sunday strokes on Hazeltine National’s greens.

But then Slocum found the answer to Liberty National’s greens, roared from four-shots back with a 67 and held off Woods for the biggest payday of his career that, at least in a twisted Monday quarterback way, validated Yang’s stunner.

“It had to happen eventually,” Slocum reasoned late Sunday in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Seemed about right, the towering lady has watched her share of fairytale endings in her day, what’s a little unscripted magic on emerald fairways carved from a former toxic waste dump?

If imitation is the best form of flattery, Woods must feel the love every time he walks into a gym or onto a practice range on Tour. The world No. 1 could probably make enough to top off the gas tanks on “Privacy” with premium unleaded selling “how to” books to his Tour stablemates.

Yet for those who have spent the last decade or so searching for the perfect “TW” playbook, Yang and Slocum are worthy of a closer inspection.

From two vastly different molds the Tiger-taming two-ball have reached strangely similar ends at least psychologically and strategically.

“He played the golf course,” said Dr. Gio Valiante, Slocum’s sports psychologist. “He didn’t get involved with who was between him and the lead or what Tiger was doing. It’s like laundry – wash, rinse, repeat.”

Good advice, particularly for the regular cast of Tiger challenging stand-ins who have seemed to subscribe to the “fluff and fold” school of thought.

Woods’ final-round scoring average was more than a stroke better than his primary opponents at major championships before the PGA. And yet Yang did Woods five better on Sunday at Hazeltine National while Slocum played the game’s alpha male to a draw (67) in New Jersey. But then that’s the “what;” it’s the “how” that matters.

On a pair of monster layouts – Hazeltine stretched to a burly 7,674 yards while Liberty was no slouch at 7,419 yards – Slocum (5-foot-7) and Yang (5-foot-9) did what they do best, hit for average.

Yang hit 11 of 14 fairways on Sunday, while Slocum was similarly safe (9 of 14 fairways) all the while averaging six fewer yards than Woods off the tee. Where the duo didn’t give ground is on the greens, the strongest part of both players’ games in recent years.

Slocum needed 109 putts to cover 72 holes at Liberty National and holed two attempts from outside 20 feet on Sunday, including that 21-foot walkoff at the last, compared to Woods’ 114 putts for the week and not a single holed attempt outside 17 feet all week.

Same story different National at the PGA, where Yang needed 118 putts to secure Asia’s first Grand Slam keepsake – men’s division – while Woods needed 120 putts and a restraining order to keep him from doing serious harm to that famous flat stick when the dust settled on the former corn field.

But then execution, particularly against Woods on a Sunday, is only part of the equation. If Yang and Slocum are to be copied, it seems the best way to tilt at the game’s ultimate windmill is with a hot putter and a set of industrial-strength blinders.

“I’ve never been around a more mentally tough competitor,” said Yang’s caddie A.J. Montecinos at Hazeltine National. “Nothing affects him, doubles, triples, whatever. He just doesn’t feel the pressure.”

There is also something to be said for lowered expectations. In fairness to all that road kill Woods has piled up over 70 Tour victories, many of the game’s media-anointed rivals have arrived in the center ring handicapped by expectations of something special.

With all due respect to Yang and Slocum, outside of immediate family and friends, few gave them a chance to turn the dog days of summer into the time of the underdog. It’s a reality both embraced.

“I’ve never seen a golfer put less pressure on himself to perform,” said Yang’s swing coach Brian Mogg. “He’s got a rare gift for that.”

A gift that, luckily for Woods, no one has conjured a way to box up and sell. But that won’t stop the rank and file from trying.

Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.

Amen.

The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.



Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”